Momentum was building this week behind a possible alternative bid to buy Rover from BMW, with the aim of retaining volume production at the Longbridge site.
At a meeting on Monday which included trade and industry secretary Stephen Byers and local MP Richard Burden, BMW agreed it would consider any `serious and credible’ rival offer to the bid under discussion from Alchemy Partners.
Former Rover managing director John Towers is believed to have agreed to front such a bid, though this has not been officially confirmed. Towers was not present at Monday’s meeting.
Of the bid, Burden said: `What is being looked at is a proposal to retain significantly higher volumes at Longbridge than envisaged by Alchemy. It has considerable expertise in automotive engineering behind it. It must have the confidence of the dealer network and the employees.’
There would still be job losses, he said. `But if it seeks to minimise them it’s worth looking at.’
He added that Longbridge’s long-term future could be based in part on contract manufacturing for a number of clients. Ford, for example, has hinted that it could contract out manufacturing completely over the next 10 years.
Alchemy Partners has until the end of the month to conclude negotiations on the sale of Rover and claims it has an exclusivity agreement. `We are quite close to concluding a deal,’ Alchemy managing partner Jon Moulton said on BBC radio on Tuesday.
* Analysis, p11